Jan 262021
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

I'm Not In Love covers

In 1974, after kicking out two albums worth of infectious, absurdist and wonderfully weird pop music, Graham Gouldman, Eric Stewart, Lol Creme and Kevin Godley, a.k.a. 10cc, sat down and decided they’d try something new. As Gouldman later described it, “we’d been discussing writing a love song.” And so began the saga of the most heavenly and eccentric ballad to ever grace the AM radio airwaves and sneakily embed itself into innocent Valentine’s Day playlists, “I’m Not In Love.”

The song was famously inspired by a complaint issued to Stewart by his wife Gloria after they’d been married for a few years, specifically “you don’t say ‘I love you’ much any more.” His defense was that if he said it too often the words would lose their impact and sound both cavalier and insincere. As Stewart explained to The Guardian in 2018:

I started wondering how I could say it without using those actual words. So “I’m not in love” became a rhetorical conversation with myself – and then a song. I wrote the lyrics in a couple of days.

The song’s famously incongruous lyrical line, “I keep your picture upon the wall, it hides a nasty stain that’s lying there” was not in fact a joke, but an actual real life remembrance. Stewart did indeed utilize a photograph of Gloria to cover a crack in his bedroom wall at his parents house in Manchester.

Still, it took some time for the song to morph into the evergreen behemoth we know and love today. Stewart felt the tune needed some refining and engaged Gouldman to assist him. They both loved “The Girl From Ipanema” and so decided to set “I’m Not In Love” to a bossa nova beat. They recorded it with bandmates Godley and Creme the old-fashioned way with guitar, bass and drums… but Godley in particular was unimpressed with the result, cuttingly declaring the song to be “crap.” And with that, the band decided to abandon the song and began working on other tracks.

Yet “I’m Not In Love” refused to go away quietly. Seems its insidious melodic charm had infected the studio staff, resulting in their regularly humming it around the office. This was duly noted by Stewart and led to his convincing the band to give “I’m Not In Love” another chance. Begrudging brainstorming sessions ensued and ironically it was Godley who came up with the most ingenious idea to better the song, suggesting that it be constructed using only voices; “the biggest choir you can imagine.” Lol Creme took the baton from there, mentioning that the grand choral sound could be created most efficiently by using tape loops. For 3 weeks the band sang and recorded vocal parts, adding layer upon layer with the cumulative total landing at somewhere around 624 voices. Combine that with fleshed out instrumentation, some Fender Rhodes, guitar, bass and Moog synthesizer, a toy music box, and an unspeakably gorgeous lead vocal from Stewart and “I’m Not In Love”…was still not finished. The famous (and sometimes polarizing) final touch involved persuading studio receptionist Kathy Redfern to fill in the bridge by whispering the words “big boys don’t cry.”

With that, voila: a classic was born. The song enjoyed massive success in the most prestigious pop charts, hitting #1 in the UK pop charts and #2 in the U.S in 1975.
Continue reading »

Jan 182021
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Hot Chocolate's "You Sexy Thing"

Hot Chocolate’s career actually started with a cover. They covered John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” in a reggae style, but had to go through Lennon himself to get approval. Although Hot Chocolate then went on to have a stable career of hits in the UK in the ’70s, “You Sexy Thing” is the standout. The song has helped sell products from the Double Whopper to cameras and cars, and it’s been featured in many movies and TV shows. It’s become iconic.

However, this song was originally a B-side track when it was released in 1975. Big mistake, huge! Once re-released as a remix, it took off. It was even headed for the top spot in the UK, but an obscure song beat them there. Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” ever heard of it? How did they know this song would “be the one” to stand the test of time? It ended up being the only song to stay in the UK top ten across the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s.

Whether you believe in miracles or not these days, let’s hear five different takes on this unabashed tune.
Continue reading »

Dec 042020
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

She's Gone covers

“She’s Gone” by Daryl Hall & John Oates was born old school. Even though the sign over the door of what was primarily known as “Soul” has long been replaced with the marginally more modern and wider sonic net of “R & B,” “She’s Gone” remains proud, righteous and straight up SOUL to its core. It’s an unabashed, beauteous love letter to the glorious Motown sounds that preceded it a decade before its creation, all harmony, hook, and heartache. It is forever immune from descriptive modernization.

John Oates’s explanation of the song’s genesis in his fine, funny 2017 memoir Change of Seasons was surprisingly comic, given the song’s theme of loss. It’s based on a very brief fling he’d had with a woman he’d encountered on an arctic night in an NYC diner at 3 a.m., who was wearing a pink tutu and cowboy boots (like you do). They dated for a few weeks until she vanished as quickly as she’d appeared, exerting the ultimate romantic gesture of cruelty by standing him up on New Year’s Eve. He says when he realized “she was going to be a no-show on that night of nights,” he thought, “If she’s not coming tonight… then she’s gone.” With that, a chorus was born. John shared the story and his melodic snippet with Daryl the next day, who then sat down at his black Wurtlizer and fleshed out the legendary intro and verses… and voila, “Everybody’s high on consolation,” forever and ever amen.

John knew the song was special. After they’d recorded it, he made this unbelievably prescient observation in his journal:

3/2/73, She’s Gone–I’m putting it down in writing. This is the one. I believe in this one.

Continue reading »

Nov 272020
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Mr Bojangles coversIf you had to be best known for but one song, “Mr. Bojangles” can’t be a bad one to leave as a legacy, even if, strangely, it isn’t necessarily that characteristic of the rest of the author’s output. The author? Jerry Jeff Walker, a stalwart of the outlaw country movement, a contemporary of Waylon and Willie, Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, to name just a few. Walker wrote “Bojangles” in 1967 and released it a year later, early on in a career that would produce well over twenty subsequent long players before his death earlier this year, of throat cancer, aged 78.

“Mr. Bojangles” has often been thought to be in honor of Bill Robinson, a black vaudeville performer who used Mr. Bojangles as his stage name. Not so. Seems it’s really a song about a whole less celebrated performer who Walker had met in jail, when he had been locked up for public intoxication. This Bojangles was a homeless man, who had adopted the name to hide his true identity, but had a fund of stories relating to the life he shared with his dog. When an ugly moment arose in the communal cell, Mr. Bojangles had lightened the mood with a tap dance. As you do.
Continue reading »

Nov 202020
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

4 Non Blondes covers

4 Non Blondes were fine with not fitting in. They even named their group after a pointed run in with a blonde family in San Francisco that made that fact very clear. Although they only made one album and disbanded after five years, the group made a splash while they were together. They were particularly influential in the LGBTQ+ community, getting their start in various bars throughout San Francisco. Since the breakup, lead singer Linda Perry and guitarist Shaunna Hall have written and produced with other artists, and drummer Wanda Day continued to drum in other bands until an accident made it too difficult to continue playing.

Their second single, “What’s Up?” was a success all over the world, reaching higher spots on the charts outside of the US than even inside. And although it may be considered a one-hit wonder, the song is one that remains relevant when you are just feeling a bit run down. Some may call it a pre-chorus, I just call it my daily routine.

Here we have five covers of “What’s Up?” trying all the time to live up to the original. All of the covers begin with a different instrument leading the way. I dare you not to sing along.

Continue reading »

Nov 062020
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Nine Inch Nails, originally formed in Cleveland, Ohio, gets a chance to return to their start with an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. The third time was the charm; they were nominated in 2014 and 2015 as well.

The band is still active despite many hiatuses throughout their career. For example, did you know that Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” samples a Nine Inch Nails song from one of their instrumental Ghosts albums (the latest, Ghosts V, released this year)? Longstanding band members Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have even been involved in writing movie scores for films and television shows such as The Social Network, Gone Girl, and Watchmen.

But back in 1994, their second album The Downward Spiral, a concept album tracing a man’s deteriorating life, brought the band into the mainstream and gave them commercial success. Although one of the singles off this album, “Closer,” is arguably their most popular hit, another of the album’s tracks, “Hurt,” has stood the test of time. It’s been covered most notably by Johnny Cash, but it’s also featured in movies, television shows, and even in sports montages and tributes.

To celebrate Nine Inch Nails’s induction, we revisit “Hurt” with five good covers and one good twist–all of them are by female artists.
Continue reading »